One of the most important skills a child needs to develop before starting kindergarten is print literacy. While print literacy is one of the main components of any good preschool and kindergarten program, the work that parents do on it at home can be much more extensive and thorough without being difficult to accomplish.
By the time a child is ready for kindergarten they should understand:
- That we read books from left to right.
- That writing moves from left to right.
- That printed words represent spoken words.
- That we can write down ideas using words and pictures so that others can read them.
Here are some easy things that parents can do at home to help their children develop print literacy skills.
Read aloud, read together. One of the easiest ways to help preschool children develop print literacy is to them and with them. It’s not necessary to explain that books are read from left to right: a child who is read to early and often will learn this innately as parents read and turn the pages. As they develop this understanding, parents can have the child turn the pages.
Children also learn that we read from left to right as parents read aloud and point to the words on the page as they read to the child. As the child begins to show understanding that the words represent what the parent is reading, parents can begin to pause at certain places and allow the child to “read” certain words. For example, if the story is about horses, when the parent arrives at the word horse in the book, the parent can stop and ask the child to say horse. At first the child will need prompting, then later the parent can just pause at the word and wait for the child to provide the word.
Don’t forget the power of just reading yourself. Children who see their parents read regularly are much more likely to think of reading as pleasurable themselves and therefore want to read.
From the time a child can hold a crayon and draw on paper, parents should encourage the child to draw and “write” about their experiences. Children can make up stories about the things they draw and write thus reinforcing the connection between writing and reading. As children get more comfortable and accomplished with drawing and writing, a formal writing plan should begin with writing and recognizing his or her own name as the first goal.
The easiest way to accomplish this is through writing the child’s name wherever appropriate. For example, I have both of my son’s names written on a poster in their play area and we “read” them daily. Later parents can have the child trace and then copy their name in writing. It is definitely possible for a child to enter kindergarten able to write his or her first and last name.
These simple things can give a child a head start on print literacy which is one of the cornerstones of kindergarten. This can make the transition much easier. Being a little ahead can make the child feel that school is easy and fun rather than difficult and can have a positive impact throughout their education.
Loretta, M.Ed., a professional writer and educator as well as stay-at-home mom, covers parenting and educational issues for the Parents’ Little Black Book, [http://parentslbb.com], a resource for parents and caregivers that focuses on frugal parenting choices.